11/17/2005 1:00AM

Delta Princess faces stiff opposition

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Four-Footed Fotos
Delta Princess won two turf handicaps at the Churchill spring meet - the Locust Grove (above) and Mint Julep.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Delta Princess made sensational rallies to sweep the Mint Julep and Locust Grove handicaps at the Churchill Downs spring meet, it was if she was saying, "Bring on all comers."

Well, they came. The return of Delta Princess to Churchill on Saturday coincides with a veritable onslaught of high-class filly-mare turf specialists who will run in the Cardinal Handicap, which strongly suggests that this running of the Grade 3 race is one of the deepest in its 32-year history.

, owned by Saud bin Khaled and trained by Bill Mott, was one of 17 horses entered in the $150,000 Cardinal. Only 12 can start, so four make up the also-eligibles list and one more was excluded altogether.

Among the more accomplished horses in the main body of the 1 1/8-mile race are (post 8), quite possibly the next filly-mare turf star on Bobby Frankel's powerhouse shed row; and Sundrop (post 9), a Godolphin filly who exits the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

But it is Delta Princess (post 11) they all have to beat, if for no better reason than the way she roared to back-to-back victories over the Churchill turf course in the spring. Each time, Delta Princess earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that would make her very competitive in her return to Kentucky.

Robby Albarado, who rode her in the Mint Julep, has the mount again on Saturday.

Mott also is represented in the race by Noisette (post 12), and had planned on running another filly, Fast Cookie, before withdrawing her in light of the fierce competition. She will target an upcoming allowance race at Churchill.

Rafael Bejarano, the meet's leading rider, gets the mount from Frankel on the Brazilian-bred Movie Star.

The balance of the main body of the Cardinal is Stupendous Miss, Miss Nashwan, Paz Ciudadana, Finery, Humoristic, and Lenatareese.

Saturday is "Kentucky Derby Legends Day," featuring appearances and tributes by a number of Derby-winning personalities. The Cardinal is carded as the ninth of 10 races on yet another Churchill program dominated by large fields.

The $70,800 Caressing (race 6), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies, is the secondary feature.